Pot. Grass. Ganja.  Mary Jane. Tea. Weed, wacky weed, loco weed, laughing weed.  Sinsemilla. Cannabis. Joints, blunts, bongs. Smoked, or baked into brownies, a delivery system for tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. Celebrated in pop culture by Cheech and Chong (or Cheech y Chong).  And, in the Coen Brothers’ The Big Lebowski, by Jeff Bridges as The Dude. Rappers have celebrated it: Snoop Dogg, Ludacris, Lil Wayne, and maybe fifty others.  Louis Armstrong, Bob Marley, and a list of jazz and rock legends too long to list smoked it, wrote about it, defended it.

And now, in two states, it’s legal.  And in California, and fifteen other states, it’s legal for medicinal uses.

Which it has, maybe.  It may reduce the nausea associated with chemotherapy and AIDS treatments.  Could be an effective treatment for glaucoma, with possible beneficial benefits for MS.  Work, possibly, as an analgesic.  Seems to reduce obesity, even, late night snacking binges aside.

And–prediction time!– betcha anything it’s going to be a hot button political issue in the next election.  I remember attending a political forum at Sunstone one year, and Utah Democratic bigwigs in attendance all mentioned how we need to come up with some sure-fire wedge issues. Love them wedge issues. The one they favored was stem cell research.  Which is to say that liberals don’t do wedge issues very well.  Conservative political operatives are frankly better at it, and with gay marriage and immigration sliding off their radar, they’re gonna need a new one.  The legalization of marijuana seems tailor-made.

‘Cause right now, we’re in a weird place, legally.  Some states have legalized marijuana for medical use, with the frankly predictable attendant abuses and enforcement inconsistencies.  And Colorado and Washington have legalized it.  Which means what, since it’s still illegal federally? I mean, on the news this morning, we could see folks getting baked under the Space Needle in Seattle–the new law went into effect this morning. People can legally smoke small amounts of weed, preferably in the privacy of their homes.  Eventually, the state of Washington has a year to come up with a system of state-licensed growers, processors and (this blows my mind) retail stores. They’re planning to tax marijuana at 25% at each step.  Could be lucrative–be nice to have that money for education.  Yay! Smoke a blunt for teachers!

So; hypothetically, the governor of Washington, Chris Gregoire, now has to hold meetings discussing how to do all that.  In those meetings–which state law requires that she hold– isn’t she also engaging in a conspiracy to violate federal law?

I have a hard time seeing Obama’s Justice Department hauling Chris Gregoire out of her office in handcuffs.  But it’s not good to have laws on the books no one intends to enforce. This would all suggest the need for a change in federal law. I know! Congress could act; pass a bill, clarify matters.  Excuse me: I just threw up a little in my mouth.

‘Cause there’s just no way. This Congress?  The most dysfunctional of my lifetime?  I suppose it’s barely possible that President Obama could ram something through the Senate, supposing changes are made in Senate filibuster rules.  And just maybe the Democrats in the House could muster enough support from hard core libertarians to sneak something past the Republicans.  Maybe.  Assuming all House Democrats also favored it, which is by no means certain.  But it would take a huge effort, expending who knows how much political capital, and over something President Obama has shown no signs of caring much about.  I mean, I know NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) is an effective lobbying group, but for most folks, this isn’t a high priority. I think a NORML bill may find itself orphaned.

The irony, of course, is that this is a federalism problem.  How autonomous are the states?  Can Washington and Colorado pass a bill that directly opposes federal law?  The hard-core Tenth Amendment guys, the real states’ rights advocates, they all tend to be conservatives.  And I’m assuming that most conservatives oppose the legalization of marijuana, just as I assume that most libertarians support it. So it gets deliciously twisty–if conservatives really do think the states should be able to assume independence a la the 10th, they should support legalizing ganja? Not sure we’re going to see that kind of ideological consistency.

Should marijuana be legalized?  I think so, yeah.  Washington’s approach makes sense to me.  Legalize it, regulate it, tax it. Treat it like alcohol, including penalities for driving while impaired.  Empty our prisons of pot-convicted non-violent offenders.  I know the arguments against legalization too, but I’m not sure how many would have merit if it were legalized. It’s thought to be a gateway drug, for example, but maybe that’s in part because it’s illegal.  Maybe part of its allure is tied to its illegality.  Many of my high school friends smoked pot, and I think it was more about the outlaw thrill of it than much else.

But the politicization of it is also part of the problem.  For example, it’s legal in sixteen states as used for medicinal purposes.  But the FDA has never approved it, citing a lack of peer reviewed research.  It’s difficult to conduct such research, obviously, on a drug that’s illegal. And the research that’s been done has been done with folks with a dog in the fight; pro-pot advocates. And legalizing it for medical uses has a definite camel’s-nose-under-the-tent-flap feel to it, a way to sneak one past the authorities.  ‘Yeah, Cheech, you need it for your glaucoma’.  Nice try.  It’s easy to claim that you a substance to ‘relieve pain’ when it’s something you think is fun. ‘Doc, I need that huge bowl of chocolate brownie ice cream; my knees always feel better afterwards.’

On the other hand. . . .

I have a medical condition which seems tailor-made for marijuana therapy.  Analgesic; I could use a better one, my knees are killing me today.  I do chemo once a week (small doses); I’d love not to feel yucky afterwards.  So if it was legal, regulated, approved for my conditions. . . .

I’ll probably never have to make that decision.  Meanwhile, it’s an entertaining political spectacle, at the very least.



2 thoughts on “Marijuana

  1. juliathepoet

    I will step cautiously here, but I think that marijuana, or the THC which is the “active part” of marijuana that people discuss medically, has been studied, gone through an FDA trial process, and is approved, in pill form. (Marinol is the brand name.) I took it during a particularly difficult pregnancy, and it was one of the things they tried before the insurance company would pay for a PICC line and long term IV fluid therapy.

    It worked better than quite a few antinausea meds, but wasn’t enough to stop other treatments. I live in Oregon, and could have asked for a medical marijuana card. Since there are not studies on smoking it, especially with pregnancy, and especially for someone with a nicotine allergy, I didn’t really consider it. I do know a lot of people who use medical marijuana in Oregon. Some I am more skeptical about their “conditions” but very few of them have heard of, or tried Marinol.

    One friend, after hearing about it asked his doctor about getting a prescription, and has been on it for over a year, without smoking marijuana. What is funny to me about this, is that his doctor, who signed his medical marijuana application, had believed the “there’s no research about marijuana” line to the point that my friend had to get his pharmacist to send information to his doctor about Marinol. It certainly is a controlled substance, but isn’t any more difficult to get than most narcotic pain killers.

    I do think that this has all the makings of a good wedge issue; not enough good information, lots of people who have passionate opinions, tons of emotion on both sides, and a connections that can be made to sex, drugs, money and rock and roll.


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